God With Us
“For his first sermon in an elementary preaching class, Lawrence, an African student, chose a text describing the joys we'll share when Christ returns and ushers us to our heavenly home.
‘I've been in the United States for several months now,’ he began. ‘I've seen the great wealth that is here—the fine homes and cars and clothes. I've listened to many sermons in churches here, too. But I've yet to hear one sermon about heaven. Because everyone has so much in this country, no one preaches about heaven. People here don't seem to need it. In my country most people have very little, so we preach on heaven all the time. We know how much we need it.’”
Bryan Chapell, The Wonder of It All (Crossway, 1999); quoted in Men of Integrity (January/February 2001)
Lawrence was not lamenting the fact that he didn’t have much, but rather he was rejoicing in what he will have in heaven. And yet, as we’ll see today, there are going to be some things that will not be in heaven.
Doing without growing up
I remember when I was growing up, that we usually only used milk on our cereal, we didn’t drink glasses of milk very often
I also remember not having much soda or pop (depending on where you grew up) – we would have it occasionally when guests came for dinner (it was always a treat)
I’m sure there were other things I didn’t have growing up that other kids my age had
Things I had to do growing up that my children don’t have to do
I had to get up to change the channel on the television, because remotes weren’t invented yet
I had to go to the phone on the wall and use the rotary dial to make a phone call at a per-minute cost, because I didn’t have unlimited cell phone service
I had to go to the library and look through the Encyclopedia for information about anything, because I didn’t have the internet
I had to walk across the yard or down the street to see my friends and connect with them, because I didn’t have a cell phone or social media
I turned out just fine without glasses of milk, a lot of soda, my own Atari system, a remote control, the internet, and a cell phone (of course I have most of things today)
Doing without now
We are very blessed as a family – God has taken care of us in so many ways
While we don’t own a home or any property, God has provided through Idaville Church, a wonderful place for us to call home
We don’t have cable, satellite, or antenna television, and I don’t miss all the commercials and negative news articles
We don’t live around our parents or siblings, so we have to do without those close relationships that others enjoy on a more frequent basis
Things we didn’t have growing up
Let’s all take a moment and remember the things we did without as children growing up – think about the conveniences that have been invented in your lifetime
I’m not having you do this today to make you feel sad or angry
My guess is that many of us have the things, today, that we didn’t have as children
Doing without now
Are there things we’re doing without today, even though we could very easily have them?
Are there things we have today that we could do without?
Seth just told me this week as they’ve been looking at a place to rent, that he and Emily are going BIG!
I didn’t know what that meant at first, but he said that they are considering not having internet at their next place, but only using an antenna for television
John’s vision of the new heaven and the new earth in Revelation 21:22-27 lists four things that will not be in the New Jerusalem. The reason these four things will not be there is because of God’s presence – God will be there and therefore these four things are not needed or present. So, John wants us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – God’s presence provides protection from impurities.
GOD (Revelation 21:22-27)
God’s Presence (vv. 22-24)
No temple needed
This is a continuation of John’s vision concerning all of the dimensions, measurements, and materials used in the New Jerusalem
He has just described for his readers what is included in the New Jerusalem and now he is sharing with them what is not included or seen there
Biblical background concerning God’s presence with His people
Throughout Biblical history we see that God’s presence was found in the form of a cloud that covered a specific meeting place (this was for the Israelites)
Tent of Meeting – Read Exodus 33:7-11
Tabernacle – Read Exodus 40:34-38
Temple – Read 1 Kings 8:1-11
Ezekiel’s vision of the New Temple Area
In Ezekiel 40-46, the prophet explains in great detail the New Temple Area
His vision was obviously in the future and many believe it is talking about the New Jerusalem
While Ezekiel is outlining a New Temple, it does not contradict John’s vision, in Rev. 21:22, of there being no Temple
“For John there is no temple because symbol has given way to reality. The temple is replaced by ‘the Lord God Almighty, and the Lamb.’” [Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 395]
God’s presence will be with His people in a new way
Jesus explained this to the woman at the well
John 4:19-21, “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.”
Paul also expressed that the physical temple had been transformed into a spiritual temple found in the lives of every believer (2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21-22)
1 Corinthians 3:16-17, Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.
“We must remember that the major religious feature of the temple was that God resided there. The entire Book of Ezekiel ends with the new name of the eschatological city, ‘the Lord is there’ (48:35). It was his Shekinah presence in the Holy of Holies that made the temple sacred. But now he physically resides among his people (Rev. 21:3), and the entire city has been made into a Holy of Holies.” [Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 759]
PRINCIPLE – God’s presence will be with His people eternally.
As followers of Jesus Christ we have the presence of God with us through the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit lives within us
We may not always feel like God is with us, but feelings can change so quickly
Many people go to church as a way to “be with God” and there’s nothing wrong with that (the church is certainly a scared place)
Matthew 28:18-20, Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”
Jesus promised to be with us as we fulfill the Great Commission
God has promised to be with us while we are here on earth
Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Psalm 23:4, Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.
My Next Step Today Is To: Claim God’s promise that He will be with me here on earth and in eternity.
Just imagine some day when God will be with us both physically and spiritually – He will be the temple, we will be in His presence for eternity – we will be able to say “God is with us!”
With God’s presence in the city, there is no need for any source of light
No light source needed
God’s glory is all the light that’s needed
There will be no sun to light the day or moon to light the night
The prophet Isaiah predicted this, The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end (Isaiah 60:19-20)
We see in scripture that those who were in the presence of God reflected His glory
Read Exodus 34:29-35
Matthew 17:1-3, After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
“If the light of God the Creator has dawned, of what use are the created lights, the sun and the moon? Of what good is their pitiful reflected light when he who is light itself (John 1:5) is present?” [Oswalt cited by Osborne, 761]
The Lamb is its lamp
John spoke, in his Gospel, about Jesus being the light
John 1:9, The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
John 8:12, When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 3:19, This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
This is our human condition – we love darkness instead of light (sin instead of righteousness)
We are born that way from the time that Adam and Eve rebelled against God
God had a plan to deal with the darkness of sin in our lives – it was Jesus!
Jesus was born into this world without the human condition of sin
He lived a perfect life, without sin
Before Jesus came, God required the Israelites to sacrifice a perfect lamb, without blemish, as a way to cover over their sin (not to take it away)
Jesus was the perfect Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world
When He died on the cross, it was the perfect and final sacrifice that God required for sin
Jesus met and fulfilled God’s standard for us
John recorded Jesus’ words in his Gospel, Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12)
The light of life is eternal life
It means our names have been written in the Lamb’s book of life (that information is important, as we’ll see in verse 27)
That is the primary source for any human being that wants to experience living in God’s presence, both physically and spiritually, for eternity
My Next Step Today Is To: Follow Jesus, so I will never have to walk in darkness, but will be able to spend eternity in God’s presence.
Nations will walk in the light of God’s glory and the Lamb’s lamp
The prophet Isaiah spoke about God’s glory and the nations being attracted by it
Isaiah 60:1-5, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the arm. Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come.”
The nations will bring their splendor into the New Jerusalem
The “nations” is simply a reference to the fact that the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem will be diverse in culture, language, background, etc.
Believers from every nation will be represented
The splendor that is mentioned here can also be defined as “glory”
Keener (The NIV Application Commentary, Revelation, 498) and Osborne (763) both emphasis that what the nations are bringing into the city is not literal wealth or riches, but rather the glory they had received on earth, and now they are offering it to God, whose glory is far greater still
God’s presence and His glory shining in the New Jerusalem means that we have His protection
God’s Protection (vv. 25-26)
No need for closed gates
The glow of city lights
How many of us are familiar with the glow of city lights on the horizon as we approach the city on the interstate
You know that there are multiple lights shining that produces the glow in the sky
In ancient times the cities were poorly lit, so there wasn’t the same type of glow in the sky that we see today
The need in ancient times to close the city gates
Since light sources were primarily torches and/or oil lamps in ancient times, the streets of the city would be dark
They would shut the city gates every night in order to provide protection for their citizens
Those who lived outside the city knew when the gates would close and they had to be outside the gates before they were shut, otherwise, they would be locked in for the night
Most crime happens under the veil of darkness
People, by nature, don’t want others to see the wrong things they’re doing, so they wait until it’s dark to do those certain things
On March 3, 2019 the introduction I shared for Revelation 20:11-15 was about Dennis Lee Curtis who, as a robber, had a “robber’s code” in his wallet when he was arrested. One of the codes he lived by was that he would only rob at night
One example I’m reminded of, from Scripture, is Judas Iscariot when he left the last supper and then directed the Pharisees and the temple guards to arrest Jesus in the garden – this was done at night
We see in the New Jerusalem that there will be no need to shut the gates on any day, because there will not be any night
God’s glory and the Lamb’s lamp will provide light continually
Evil will not have a time period where it will be able to function outside of God’s glorious light
PRINCIPLE – God will protect His people from evil, forever.
As we learned in Rev. 19 and 20, the beast, the false prophet, Hades, death, and Satan have all been thrown into the lake of burning sulfur – evil is gone
The idea that night is no longer here is another way of saying that evil is vanquished – it’s gone!
This principle is also an incredible promise for us as followers of Jesus Christ
The rod was a heavy stick used to fend off attacking animals – it was used to protect the sheep from being devoured
The staff is the one we think of today with the hook on the end – it was used to pull straying sheep back to the flock
God is protecting us from evil, even while we’re on earth
He is our Good Shepherd – He is protecting us from Satan and his minions and He is pulling us back into relationship with Him and other believers, when we stray
Perhaps you don’t feel like God is protecting you from evil or temptation
You feel like evil and temptation are always right there and you find yourself giving in
Paul encouraged the Corinthian believers with these words, No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
God always provides a way out, but we don’t always take it
“A very religious man was once caught in rising floodwaters. He climbed onto the roof of his house and trusted God to rescue him. A neighbour came by in a canoe and said, ‘The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll paddle to safety.’
‘No thanks’ replied the religious man. ‘I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.’
A short time later the police came by in a boat. ‘The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll take you to safety.’
‘No thanks’ replied the religious man. ‘I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.’
A little time later a rescue services helicopter hovered overhead, let down a rope ladder and said. ‘The waters will soon be above your house. Climb the ladder and we’ll fly you to safety.’
‘No thanks’ replied the religious man. ‘I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.’
All this time the floodwaters continued to rise, until soon they reached above the roof and the religious man drowned. When he arrived at heaven he demanded an audience with God. Ushered into God’s throne room he said, ‘Lord, why am I here in heaven? I prayed for you to save me, I trusted you to save me from that flood.’
‘Yes you did my child’ replied the Lord. ‘And I sent you a canoe, a boat and a helicopter. But you never got in.’
So God always provides, but we don’t always recognize it as His provision
Glory and Honor will be brought into the city
With the gates always open, there is unlimited access
There is no need to keep the “inhabitants of the earth” (the title given in Revelation to unbelievers/unrighteous) out, because they have been thrown into the lake of burning sulfur
Isaiah 60:11, Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that men may bring you the wealth of the nations – their kings led in triumphal procession.
The nations that are coming, and bringing their glory and honor, are those who are followers of Jesus Christ
“Verse 26 suggests that endlessly in heaven the saints will have opportunity to bring praise to God by offering up to him the best of our accomplishments.” [Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary, Revelation, 403]
This is a reminder that everything we have accomplished on earth is a result of God’s providential hand at work through us
With evil gone we see the final thing that will not be in the New Jerusalem – any kind of impurity
God’s Purity (v. 27)
John notes two groups that would be considered impure, but this is not an exhaustive list
He is connecting several themes that he has already mentioned earlier in the letter
Those who have done what is shameful
Shameful could also be translated as “abominable”
It would then refer to those who sided with Babylon the Great, the Great Prostitute
John’s imagery in Revelation is that they committed spiritual adultery with her, meaning that they worshiped her instead of God – they gave in to every kind of shameful practice associated with the Great Prostitute
Those who have done what is deceitful
It’s individuals who have done things in a way that was not truthful, leading people down the wrong path
It also includes those who have spoken lies and through that have led people astray
While nothing or no one who is impure will be in the city, the city will be populated by those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life
Those who follow Jesus Christ will have the light of life and will spend eternity in the New Jerusalem where God’s presence will be experienced both physically and spiritually
PRINCIPLE – God’s eternal home will be completely pure.
I hope you’re looking forward to that
Spring is coming and those who garden are already thinking about their gardens
Last year, Sherl Shaffer gave me some great advice about how to keep the weeds under control in our garden (multiple layers of newspaper covered with a thick layer of mushroom soil mulch)
I was able to do that with 3 of the 6 raised beds we have, and it worked wonderfully
The other 3 beds had lots and lots of weeds
I would tell Judy and Pastor Marc that I was going to do some garden therapy
Having to worry about weeds in our gardens is a result of the fall of Adam and Eve
I can’t wait to be part of God’s eternal home that will be completely pure – no weeds!
God is with us
We all know that to be true when it comes to eternity, but we don’t always believe or feel that here on earth
He promises to never leave us or forsake us
Claim that promise for yourself today
God has given us the light of life through His Son Jesus
Jesus explained that we can have the light of life (eternal life) by following Him
If you’ve never made the decision to follow Jesus, I encourage you to do that today
You will experience God’s presence with you here on earth and in eternity someday
How we react to hardships and difficulties shows the world what we truly believe about God – have we really claimed the promises that God is with us and that He will protect us from evil and temptation?
Our testimony through our actions and words could be what draws our family, friends, and coworkers toward a relationship with God – as they see the glory of God reflected in and through us, they will be drawn to it
“The sense that we will live forever somewhere has shaped every civilization in human history. Australian aborigines pictured Heaven as a distant island beyond the western horizon. The early Finns thought it was a distant island in the far away east. Mexicans, Peruvians, and Polynesians believed that they went to the sun or the moon after death. Native Americans believed that, in the afterlife, their spirits would hunt the spirits of buffalo.
The Gilgamesh epic, an ancient Babylonian legend, refers to a resting place of heroes and hints at a tree of life. In the pyramids of Egypt, the embalmed bodies had maps placed beside them as guides to the future world. The Romans believed that the righteous would picnic in the Elysian Fields, while their horses grazed nearby. Seneca, the Roman philosopher, said, ‘The day thou fearest as the last is the birthday of eternity.’
Although these depictions of the afterlife differ, the unifying testimony of the human heart throughout history is belief in life after death. Anthropological evidence suggests that every culture has a God-given, innate sense of the eternal—that this world is not all there is.”
Randy Alcorn, Heaven (Tyndale, 2004); submitted by Bill White, Paramount, California.